A Better Way to Start Your Day

Two things are bugging me.

One is that Germany’s plan for invading France at the start of World War I was called the von Schlieffen plan and it was doomed from the start because it involved a very strict timetable and yet didn’t give any allowance for possible resistance from the Belgians as the Germans passed through Belgium.  I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately because it’s in a World War I book I’m reading.

The other thing that’s bugging me is the expression, “Good morning.”

First off, what the heck does it mean?

Am I objectively declaring that the morning is good, as though I’m the authority on mornings?  In the same way a judge at a dog show might feel the rump of a Doberman and proclaim, “Good dog.”

Or am I telling you to go out and make the morning good, in case you were stupidly planning on making it crappy?  Because if that’s the case, a warning from me probably won’t make a difference.

And even if I was telling you to go out and make the morning good, the expression still seems overly truncated.  I mean, if I wanted you to go out and get a good haircut, I wouldn’t just say, “Good haircut.”

And while I’m at, why do we say “Good heavens” when we see something out of the ordinary?   It’s like saying, “Holy shit, I am shocked, so let me say something mildly complimentary about the afterlife.”

It’s just about as odd as “Good riddance.”  That’s supposed to tell someone you dislike to leave.  And yet I’m wishing good on them as they do.  The correct expression should be, “Fucked-up riddance.”

But “good morning” is the worst of these because it is used first thing every single day and yet is confusing and meaningless and uninformative.  Instead, we should begin our day by jumping right in with what’s on our mind, thereby triggering a healthy debate of the issues.

I bring all this up because my wife Staci woke me up this morning by gently nudging my shoulder and saying, “Good morning, sweetie.”

And I replied:

“The Belgians fucked up everything.”

And she didn’t say one word in defense of the von Schlieffen plan.

81 thoughts on “A Better Way to Start Your Day

  1. From Wiktionary, “Good Morning”: An ellipsis for the expression “I wish you a good morning.”


  2. I am here again, Brandon from Germany. As if it weren’t enough that you humiliate me in my homeland, you persist in doing so online. You see, I am part Belgian, too.

    So, good evening to you, Mr. Pastis. And “good” riddance–if you know what I mean.

  3. Absolutely hilarious!!!

    But… good riddance means that it was good to get rid of them. You typically don’t say that to the person leaving…

  4. I was writing an ethics paper, and then I read this (I know it’s not a good combination, Pastis and ethics that is), but it made me laugh after reading a bunch of ethical stuff.

    Didn’t the Belgians make up for it by being the way around the Maginot line for the Germans in WWII?

  5. Thank you for you kind words. And a hearty “The Belgians fucked up everything” to you, too 🙂

  6. Instead of “good morning”, to my really good friends I say, “Did you read Pearls Before Swine today?”

    Also, Belgium doesn’t exist. See linked site for details.

  7. I’ll tell you what’s bugging me:

    the last two lines of this post seem to indicate a desire for German victory in the Great War. Are you a Hun lover, Mr. Pastis.

    The other thing bothering me is Kim Kardashian’s mom. What the fuck is a matter with that woman?

  8. “And a good day to you too, sir.” (Walter)
    also it’s “Good riddance to bad rubbish”
    and in addition the; The correct expression should be, “Fucked-up riddance.” statement is Rat channeling through you.

  9. Moltke also goofed up because he wasn’t the leader his
    uncle was, and the pesky Russians didn’t help on a second front. Now if the Russian revolution had happened a bit earlier, they wouldn’t have been much of a threat. The Germans were looking for a reprise of 1870…..

  10. Yes. We’ve wasted enough time with idle chit chat. People just need to get right to the point with what they’re saying.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way. 🙂

  11. My bitch is when they hand me my cup of coffee at Fourbucks they allways say, ‘Have a nice day.’ No thanks, I have other plans.

  12. One thing that bugs me is that one of my favorite authors — not you, Pastis; another favorite author — consistently uses “laid” instead of “lay” as the past tense of “lie.”

    The other thing that bugs me is that his editor consistently misses it.

    Oh, and also, my Volvo was apparently built in Belgium, not Sweden, which is weird.

  13. Years ago I worked the night shift at a convenience store. One time this guy pulls in with a girl in his car. He comes in and buys a pack of condoms. He then tells me to, “Have a good night.” I don’t know if he realized I wanted to beat him to death.

  14. Kudo for winding up the tale with a reference to the first part. Dave Barry does this too. I’m pretty sure he wasnt the first. It really tied the essay together.

  15. Your post says February 27th, 2011. But today is February 26th… and you live in California…

    …are you from the future?

  16. I am like Rat in the comic a few days back bout perky morning people. I just loved it so much I posted it on my door at work.

    To Dan and his Fourbucks comment: LMAO!!!!!!!!!

  17. Hey Stephan. Just between you and me, from the looks of some of these “remarks” being made, some of these people are being a bit TOO uptight and anal, and taking your latest blog posting far TOO serious. Guess they’re not being very “good-humored” about it, are they?

  18. I resent that. We fucked up WWI allright but the statement “The Belgians fucked up everythhing” is a huge generalization. We didn’t fuck up the world record not-having-a-government. 259 days since the elections and counting baby! Oh wait. Maybe that’s a fuck-up too. Hmm… OK. How about: beer, chocolate and wafles. The holy trinity that we didn’t fuck up. Yay Belgium!

  19. Why is everyone always blaming the Belgians.
    Is it because they started waffling?

    OK, so I am just pissed I didnt see your Belgian comment coming… after such a long drawn out rabbit trail!!! Good one.

  20. people just dont understand comedy/satire. keep up the great work, stephen.
    and more reader mail….PUHLEEEEZE1

  21. The Guide mentions how little is still considered to be unspeakable in the galaxy, except for the rudest word in existence: “Belgium”.

  22. I hate mornings so I never say good morning to the people at work. In fact I rarely say it all. The ONLY time I ever say it is when I get some from the wife first thing in the morning. Now that actually is a good morning.

  23. “Good riddance!” is a phrase exclaimed to those remaining as you slam the door on the exiting un-desired presence. So it actually makes perfect sense.

    “Good morning” is a cliche but cheerful greeting meant to remind everyone that we each have the power to manipulate our own attitudes and simultaneously to encourage everyone to make positive choices in that department.

    Instead of a simple “Good morning” among peers, in Japan workers all start the work day with calisthenics IN the office. Maybe you’d prefer that? If’n them’n Germany had won WW2 that’s how it’d be now.

    Fat, dumb, and happy – living in a land of plenty, and you Mr. P want to complain about someone trying to bring a little light into your life. You and Pig need to jump on some Vespa’s and go trout fishing so you can loosen up a little.

  24. Of course, everything is Germany’s fault again. Frankly I didn’t know that they invented the phrase “good morning”.

    I like the word “servus” which is used in a big part of Central Europe. You can use it as “hello” and “goodbye” in the morning, noon, evening or every other day and night time. It means something like “at your service”. Since nobody takes the meaning that seriously (or is aware of it), you can also say it to people you never would serve 🙂

  25. In Japanese, you say “Good afternoon” by saying Konnichiwa, which literally translates to “This day is”
    This day is…what? It’s a real cliff-hanger of a greeting.

  26. if it’s any consolation…

    not the last haircut i got, but the one before that was really, really bad

  27. Your logic is a bit convoluted but not without merit ( and always hysterical ). The one that throws me,though is ‘Good Heavens’, so I plan to Google it.

  28. My wife used to get mad at me for saying “good morning,” since she believed it to be an objective declaration of fact which, in her opinion, was _always_ incorrect. However, “good morning,” like “good luck,” is actually a thing you are wishing upon the recipient.

    We could instead say “I wish you a good morning” or even “Prithee sire, I dos’t wish upon you a good morning,” but both are just a bit too Ren Fest for my taste.

  29. I usually reply “Don’t tell me what to do”… sometimes I go on, trying to make points like 1. I don’t tell you what to do and 2. What if I didn’t FEEL like having a good day. Sometimes I can actually get the morons behind the counter to try to explain “good morning”

  30. Uhoh, you are channeling J.R.R. Tolkien. This echoes the conversation between Bilbo and Gandalf in the beginning of the Hobbit.

  31. Did someone read the Hobbit? Because Gandalf has similar issues with ‘good morning’. So clearly, Mr. Pastis, you’re a freaking powerful wizard. Congrats.

  32. I rarely say “good morning” because what is good about it? I generally would prefer to grunt, just so my loved ones know I am breathing.
    I also take offense to the people (generally back east) who say “Have a good one”. What, I can’t have a good two, or three…only one?! What is with that!?

  33. NO ONE says good morning to me! They know better. Even my father would say to me in the morning “How many nasty pills you take today?” Knowing full well if he said good morning he would regret it. You must not have gotten your message across as a child or you would not have to hear those words.

  34. When someone wishes me a ‘good morning’, I often acknowledge “yes, it is morning; it’s goodness is yet to be determined” ;>).

  35. What I don’t understand is how Fuck became a prejoritive term. Why have we taken a word that should be a blessing and turned it into a curse?

  36. Pingback: Top Posts — WordPress.com

  37. Thank you Sarah, for reminding me of ‘Konnichiwa’. I lived on Okinawa for a year. They still had a very polite society back then, I hope they have held on to it. I wish some of the grouches who posted here could get a taste of that, the echo’s of those long ago happy voices still bring a smile to my heart when I remember. (Of course, the dark-side to all that politeness is that back in the day, if you were not polite – some Shogun would lop yer head off…)

    But, life doesn’t have to suck folks, you can choose to be a lamp against the darkness.

    Hey, maybe a story of Rat and his bat in Japan! Rat vs. Feudalism!

  38. Cindy Duboise – ‘Fuck’ while it has come into casual use and has basically been hammered into a gender-neutral term for about any form of sexual activity, stems from a root word meaning ‘to penetrate’ – and was a rude and vulgar term indicating a male dominating and subjecting a female to his sexual desires without regard for her feelings on the subject. It fell short of ‘rape’, but certainly had no place in the presence of ‘making love’. Regardless of how much free-love fucking might be going on in the world, it will never bring happiness or solve any problems, and only diminishes the human spirit and brings loneliness. Only through learning to make love can sex approach anything good or right in this world. IMHO.

  39. Good morning from Belgium to you too, Stephen.

    We try not to fuck up everything, but in a country where absurdity is a life style, what do you expect?

    In other countries, people come on the street because they want to get rid of their government. We come on the streets because we don’t have a government and we want one. Can’t we vote for Rat as prime minister?

  40. How about when someone says “HAVE A GOOD ONE”
    A good what? Can someone please explain this?

  41. It’s a shortened form of “I wish you a Good Morning.” (Could be others said that – too many inane comments to be read through to determine if that is the case.)

  42. It’s funny. I just read that Frank Buckles, the last surviving American veteran of WW I, died yesterday (the day you wrote your blog). His last words were, “Well, fucked-up riddance, y’all, and thank goodness for those Belgians.”

  43. Today Guard Duck said “mercy me.” Mercy me??? Are you kidding me? What heat packing guard duck says “mercy me”??? he might as well have said “good heavens.”

  44. ok, you seriously need to stop. You’re getting as bad as nostalgia critic! quit making me laugh so hard, dangit!

    to answer your question, I think “Good morning” is more a shortened version of, “I wish you a good morning” or “I hope you have a good morning.” since English speakers are lazy, we shorten it to “good morning,” but I see your point. lol, I loved the one about good heavens! and good riddance. I’m going to go look up riddance now.

  45. Yup, that’s what us Belgians do, we fuck up everything for everyone else.
    U mad?

  46. You must be reading the Hobbit… Tolkein made the same argument…without the “fuck”‘s of course. They didn’t say such things.

  47. You’re not reading “The Guns of August,” are you? Great book about the beginning of WWI.

    I agree, the Belgians done fucked it all up. Leave it to the Germans to have a plan of battle that had no flexibility at all.

    If you read your history well, you’d know that the Germans were scared to death of “Einkreisung:” being encircled by Russia and France. And it didn’t help that their historical ally, Britain, switched sides after von Tirpitz started building dreadnaughts.

    If Germany had won, it would’ve probably been a repeat of 1871. But France won, imposed the Versailles treaty (reparations, territory losses, and so on) on the Germans, and left them itching for revenge.

  48. Where Germany FUBAR’d the Schlieffen Plan, was by failing to execute it to conclusion. The tail end of the plan was designed to cut Paris off from the sea, and ensure that England would be unable to send assistance across the Channel.

    Instead of driving to the west of Paris, the Germans turned due south and marched directly ON Paris after driving through Belgium virtually unopposed.

    The violation of Belgian neutrality was what brought the major Western powers into the war.

    And it was Wilhelm II’s arrogance and vaingloriousness in dumping Bismarck in the 1890’s that contributed more to Britain’s break with Germany than the naval programme.

    Bismarck’s intention was to maintain Germany’s alliance with Russia, and also align with England, and such a tripartite alliance at the dawn of the 20th century would have been unstoppable.

    Wilhelm’s romantic notions of a grand Germanic alliance with Austria-Hungtay (much like those of his reat-grandfather, Frederick William IV) were what led Germany to side with Austria and mobilize against Russia when Franz Ferdinand was assassinated at Sarajevo.

    If the Germans had seized upon the opportunity in 1914 to force an Anschluss on German Austria at that time, and allowed Slavic Russia to deal with Balkan issues, there would never have been a World War I OR a World War II…

  49. Typo corrections:



    And Frederick William IV was actually the great-uncle of Wilhelm II, not his great-grandafther. Frederick William IV was the brother of Wilhelm I, the first Kaiser of the German Empire in 1871.

    Frederick III, “The Silent Emperor,” was the son of Wilhelm I and the father of Wilhelm II.

  50. These are all very interesting posts, but everyone missed the most important part. Stephan…only TWO things were bugging you? Given your disposition, isn’t that in and of itself the definition of a “good morning”?

  51. Am I the only person that read this post and thought…”You idiot! You just lost your chance for morning sex.”?

  52. i had a cranky teacher back in high school who would reply with a “What’s so good about the morning?” when we greet him along the corridors.

  53. Stephan, you totally to what I do; drop the f-bomb like a mofugger when you been drankin’ and the kids are off to bed. were you drankin’ when you wrote this post? (’cause I’m drankin’ right ’bout now, yeehaw!!!!)

    P.S. Y’all who made a lot of redneck attributions when y’all saw me talkin’ hilbilly, y’all can take your attributions, roll ’em into a tight coil, and ram ’em right up y’all’s asses. booyeah!

  54. I started a new job once and said, “Good morning,” to my new boss. His reply? “What makes you think so?,” and he stormed off with his cup of coffee.

  55. We give credit to the Belgians for being “plucky” in the face of the Hun onslaught, the Germans screwed up the plan three ways. they ignored the treaty of 1839 in which Great Britian pledged aid if Belguim was invaded, second no one bothered to see if the railway systems stretching from Germany though the low countries to northern France was capatible and lastly Moltke the younger differed troops from the western invasion to begin the invasion of Russia thinking that the Russians would collapse as they did during the Russo-Japanese war. This I am sure does nothing to help you with your wife or your Good morning quandry

  56. sorry you had to stoop to using profanity….@*&%#$, is so much funnier….I thought I read somewhere you were a Christian…..

  57. sorry you had to stoop to using profanity….@*&%#$, is so much funnier….I thought I read somewhere you were a Christian.

  58. This is why I just say “morning.” That way, in case someone wasn’t sure, they’ll know.

    What annoys me is “What is up?” It’s been shortened to “What’s up?” then “Wazzup?” then “W’sup?” then “‘Sup?” but it hasn’t yet been shortened to “Up?” or “P?” I’m still waiting for that magical day that will allow me to have as little unnecessary human interaction as possible.

  59. TV morning show hosts: please refrain from using the phrase, “Good Morning”, when throwing to the reporter at the scene of a tragedy.

  60. Also, “I’ll see ya later..”

    “Not if I see you first!”

    What does that mean!!!!!

  61. Nice! Did you know that Gandalf went on a tangent about “Good Morning” in The Hobbit? If you don’t, then that means you should read the Hobbit. Cartoonists need to be well-read too!

  62. For what it is worth, my husband (a cop in one of the roughest parts of St. Louis) informs me that the current accepted form of greeting amongst the denizens of that area is “What’s good?”


    As a non-morning person I prefer to say “Morning!” with a hilt of sarcasm and reproach, choosing to omit the good as, though I am glad to have been blessed to be alive for another day, I am still in need of additional rest and as such the good before the morning must be omited so that I don’t end up throwing up.

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